Forensic Science Could ID Mystery Portraits

California professor aims to unveil 'The Girl With the Pearl Earring'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2012 4:06 PM CDT
Vermeer's "The Girl With the Pearl Earring."   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – A California professor is bringing CSI techniques to the art world: Conrad Rudolph of UC Riverside has obtained funding to apply advanced facial recognition technology to famous paintings like Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, the Guardian reports. Such mystery portraits could finally be identified—if, that is, measurements can match them to other depictions of people in paintings and death masks.

Rudolph also plans to use an "aging" technique to help him match portrait subjects to people painted years later—just as police use it to hunt down suspects or missing persons. Of course, these techniques will depend on the accuracy of the paintings involved: "It is different using this on art rather than an actual human," Rudolph admits. "But we are trying to test the limits of the technology now, and then who knows what advances may happen in the future? This is a fast-moving field." (Read more portrait stories.)

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